3 Fun Cultural Differences Between New Zealand (And Oz) Thailand And The United States

April 13, 2018
Nice view from the home office in Opotiki, New Zealand. You can have that view. But I don’t want to hurt your feelings, so I’ll lie, and say I like it. What, you don’t like the view? Bump you!


The heavyset, kindly woman smiled at me.


I swiped my credit card last night at the grocery store here in Opotiki, New Zealand.


Per store policy, she checked the back of my card for a signature to match up with the receipt I signed. But she noted I was American, and how we often do not sign the backs of cards for security purposes.


I flashed my driver’s license. She nodded.


She explained with so few folks in Opotiki how everybody knows each other and verifying signatures is the best method for spotting frauds.


I noted how this makes sense to me.


In passing, I joked around about how New Zealand has 4 million people and my tiny Northern New Jersey has close to that number if not more, stating how both credit card fraud policies work for both places.


She deadpanned: “You can have ’em.”


Then she walked off.


I laughed and walked off. Funny as hell. Genuine too. No malice. No nastiness. Clear honesty.


The Kiwi way.


The Aussie way too.


New Zealanders are pleasantly honest in a casual, relaxed way. I love it. Makes for a cohesive, open society methinks.


Aussies are honest too. Although some Aussies may bust your balls a bit more than others (think, Bintang Brigade in Bali) all the folks from Down Under I have met are genuine, good-natured and fun to hang with.


The cultural patterns I noted below are generalities. Meaning a majority of folks I met from each land tend to behave in this manner but many exceptions to the rule exist too.


Either way, the differences are fun, fascinating and to be celebrated; imagine how freaking boring life would be if we were all alike?!


Let’s see how the average person would respond to the New Zealand lady at the store…..


Americans (Especially Northern New Jerseysites….Yes, Where I Am From)


Responses vary region from region, but the average American may chuckle a bit, being able to take it on some level, but a wee bit of wounded America pride would result in a quick dish of something like….


“I’ll take those 4 million, thank you. If they found me guilty of credit card fraud, would my image appear on the window as you leave the grocery store, just like those other clowns?” (statement dripping with ball-busting sarcasm)


I am not kidding; they really do post people’s likenesses (images from the security cam) if these cats are wanted for stealing shit or card fraud or whatever, in the grocery store here, Opotiki-style.


Funny to me, and kinda neat too. A little like Small Town USA. Love it.


Thai Person


Most Thai would smile but feel an immediate loss of face, seeing the women’s line as an insult to Thailand, embarrassing them.


A few Thai would get really angry. Insult buried, festers, not good for Kiwi woman. Potentially. Especially if said Thai had 4 buddies waiting outside with pipes. (Rare; but yes, it does happen.)


A few Thai would not be able to filter the line as mockery, or an insult, being so unused to anybody disagreeing or sharing an insulting view of Thailand.


Guys; this is not right or wrong. I have met Thai not into the face-saving bit. I also find face-saving cultures fascinating and dig honoring this cultural norm in Thailand. Everybody is nice to each other. Even if they are lying, LOL!


The New Zealander or Australian


Most Kiwis or Aussies would have no issue with someone being honest in genuine fashion, as most Kiwis and Aussies are.


The ball busting Kiwi or Aussie having a bad day may have told her to “toss off” or “bugger off” but I highly doubt it.


Just a nod. Maybe they’d agree. Then move on. No issue. No offense. No outrage.


Sorry Americans; it’s refreshing to be in a country largely free of bitchy, petty, highly offend-able folks.


Of Course Exceptions Exist


This Northern New Jerseysite American cackled at the lady’s take; I love honest, genuine folks. No; not BRUTAL honesty, my fellow Americans. Just an honest person. No charge. Genuine.


I am a bizarre American; I am un-offendable, and never started an outrage. An alien. This is why people believe Kelli and I are Canadians.


Some Thai tell you how they genuinely feel, being more concerned with honesty and less concerned with fearing that they’d offend you, insult you or hurt your feelings.


Outraged Aussies and Kiwis exist; haven’t found them yet during my little globe-trotting journeys.


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Ryan Biddulph is a blogger, author and world traveler who's been featured on Richard Branson's Virgin Blog, Forbes, Fox News, Entrepreneur, Positively Positive, Life Hack, John Chow Dot Com and Neil Patel Dot Com. He can help you become a full time blogger with this eBook.
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  1. Dead on with South Africans and Aussies Keith. I house sat with a South African couple and totally see what you are saying. I also met a dude from SA last week in New Zealand; definitely reminds me of Aussie folks I have connected with. You do have a sports rivalry going. Especially with rugby.

    Good point on New Yorkers too. Honest, blunt but polite and quite pleasant in many regards. Certainly a handful get a bad rap. Ditto for New Jersey folks. Some are busters but most are pretty cool when you get to know them.

    Smart move on Thai’s dude. Living in Bangkok you know it is a delicate dance. I keep things super light and if someone with a more open view shares their thoughts in a less filtered way, that usually signals they are open to joking and such but really, being super polite seems to be the way to go in Thailand.

    Thanks for the rocking comment.

  2. Keith Says:

    I love the gentle Thai’s. But always worried I might offend. So I keep my jokes to a minimum.

    Recently when in New York I was expecting brash rude people. I was pleasantly surprised by how willing to help and polite they were. I would say they are blunt. You know where you stand with a New Yorker. But not rude. I’m guessing New Jersey folk aren’t too different?

    Aussie’s are cool, maybe similar to South Africans in many ways, although both they and we would deny it. Mostly due to sporting rivalries.

    I enjoy the Kiwi’s sense of humour the most. I get the impression they are dry yet gentlemanly.

    My opinions…. for whats its worth

  3. I left a thought.